November 19, 2014

‘Tis the season for shopping close to home

As published in Country Routes

Whether you are looking for toys, clothing, food, practical supplies or indulgent specialty products, shops in the Erin area offer a wide selection for Christmas shoppers, with competitive prices and plenty of friendly personal service.

“We’re not just here to make the Town look nice,” said Chris Bailey of Brighten Up Toys and Games, the new chair of the Business Improvement Area (BIA).

Stores were beautifully decorated and very busy during Erin’s 12th Annual Window Wonderland last Friday night. They are ready to compete not just for tourist shoppers, but also for the business of Erin residents.

Here are a few gift ideas.

Brighten Up is always on the lookout for toys, games and puzzles that are a little bit different, but still meet the essential criteria – fun, durable, easy to learn and use, promoting creativity and reasonably priced.

He likes products such as the Imagine I Can Magnetic Play Sets, which have abstract shapes that kids use to create scenes and dress up characters. A float-along bath book for young children, with an attached collection of bath toys has also caught his attention.

“It’s popular with grandparents,” he said.

For older kids, teens and adults, one of his favourite games is Magic Labyrinth. Players are on a quest for rewards, with the game pieces guiding a magnetic ball through a hidden, changeable maze. Drop the ball and you’re back to square one.

“We look for games that are challenging, but still accessible,” he said. They sell traditional products such as Monopoly, wooden toys and building sets – including Lego at the same price you’d pay at Walmart.
Chris Bailey of Brighten Up Toys and Games    
Just down the street, Budson Farm and Feed is known for providing a wide selection of products, going beyond the needs of the farm community. Owner Alf Budweth wants to “bring people back to a traditional feeling” with practical gifts such as riding boots, toboggans and bird feeders (plus bird seed, of course), and clothing that ranges from whimsical onesie pyjamas to warm mitts, stylish hats and durable winter coats.

“We make a conscious effort to be different from the big stores,” said Manager Carol Wetering. They’ve created a farm store meeting place atmosphere and set up pathways of animal tracks on the floor that kids can follow to colouring stations. They got kindergarten and Grade 1 kids from Erin Public School to decorate their Christmas tree, and provide a stable full of animals to a village in Africa instead of buying gifts for their business associates.

Budson’s also offers a wide array of supplies for Erin’s many horse farms, while household gifts include dish towels, pet supplies, eco-soy candles and farm-themed toys.
Carol Wetering and Alf Budweth of Budson Farm and Feed    

On Old Main Street in Belfountain, Credit Creek Country Store provides a good browsing experience, with lots of affordable clothing, home decor and jewellery. Over the past 25 years, owner Linda Lewis has perfected the art of choosing products that move well in the Christmas gift-buying season.

These include Canadian-made sweaters, novelty gift books, floor puzzles and cute Jellycat stuffed animals. Clothing is the primary focus, with stocking stuffers such as pepperoni-print socks, plus unique scarves, hats, mitts and handbags.

There are gifts tailored to people with special hobbies such as cycling or golf, and themed earrings that you won’t find at the mall. In the personal care section there are coordinated soap products that can be combined as gifts, and hand sanitizers with funny sayings.

Decoration needs are well met, not just for the Christmas tree, but for various areas of the home, with flour sack tea towels, many types of candles, objects of art and craft creations that are suitable for any season.
Linda Lewis of Credit Creek Country Store